Friday, June 26, 2009

South Africa: Volunteerism

Have you ever sat down at work or school and wondered what was missing in your life? Sometimes we think and dream about helping people abroad, but we never go through with it. Some of these reasons can be because of safety concerns, homesickness, fear of other governments, stereotypes of the country, and other fearful thoughts.

The real question is, setting fear aside, where do I start gaining the knowledge of who to talk to, and how I will stay safe?

Who would I talk to?
There are many different volunteer organizations that will help people willing to help others. They will be able to work with you on how to make a difference. Some volunteer organizations require longer stays than others. They may also require long screening processes.

The Peace Corps Volunteers serve in 74 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Collaborating with local community members, Volunteers work in areas like education, business, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology. With the Peace Corps, you must commit to 27 months of training and service overseas.

What if I don’t want to volunteer that long?
Another organization is the Cross-Cultural Solutions. They have 1 week up to 12 week programs that offer the volunteer the opportunity to complete service. Although for some programs, you will have to pay for them because of all the costs involved.

What would I do?
You will be assigned to a job depending on what types of skills you have. For example if you are graduating from college or have graduated from college with a business degree, you are eligible to work with these organizations to advise and develop private and public businesses, develop urban and regional planning, or help deal with youth, social services, small-business development, or the environment.

There are many other specialties that you can involve yourself in including education, youth outreach, and community development, business development, environment, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS, information technology, and food security.

Also depending on which organization that you work with, you may be doing something completely different, so if you are serious about volunteering, do your research and see what fits you best.

What if I don’t want to go alone?
There are certain programs that offer you to bring your family or others; however some of these volunteer positions require payment for costs that are involved with volunteering. Again, do research to see what fits you or your group that wants to go. Also check with your local community leaders and churches that already have programs fitted to volunteering abroad.

Are there any safety concerns?
When volunteering abroad, situations can become dangerous to you and your health. If you go prepared, your risk of getting ill, or being stuck in a scary situation will be greatly reduced. Some places may require you to be vaccinated due to outbreaks of certain diseases in the area. Passport Health can offer you advice on how to stay safe and healthy, as well as offer any vaccination to protect you from deadly diseases. Passport Health also works with Global Rescue; where if you get injured or put in a life threatening situation, they will help you. Getting the right knowledge, vaccinations, and coverage will mean a safe trip helping others. South Africa needs help in certain areas of the country. It is up to the privileged to make a difference.

If you were to volunteer, where would you want to go? What would you want to do?

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